Brain Injury on the Job: Understanding the Workers’ Comp Process

Suffered a brain injury on the job? Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) on the job happen far too often and are far too costly.

According to the CDC, “There were approximately 223,135 TBI-related hospitalizations in 2019 and 64,362 TBI-related deaths in 2020. This represents more than 611 TBI-related hospitalizations and 176 TBI-related deaths per day. These estimates do not include the many TBIs that are only treated in the emergency department, primary care, urgent care, or those that go untreated.”

Keep in mind that the 611 TBI-related hospitalizations often do not include mild TBIs, or concussions, which also have symptoms that hinder one’s ability to work. 

For instance, if you fall and hit your head while at work and suffer a concussion, you may seek medical treatment in the ER and then receive instructions to stay home for a week or more. 

Without workers’ compensation, you’d be responsible for paying all the associated medical bills and potentially lose income from days off work.

If you suffered a brain injury on the job (or someone you love has), it’s important to understand the workers’ compensation process in Georgia. 

Treat Every Head Injury Seriously

Sometimes it’s hard to admit you’re hurt, but head injuries are not the time to act tough.

Let’s say you hit your head on a shelf or something fell on your head while you were on the job. You may feel pain right when it happens, but the pain subsides. So, you treat it as no big deal, but it could actually result in a traumatic brain injury. 

Unfortunately, many traumatic brain injuries include “invisible symptoms” that may not show up until days or weeks later.

Emory University explains, “TBIs are considered a ‘disease of process,’ meaning that the impact of this injury type may be delayed. Some people may experience symptoms that resolve immediately, and others may experience new symptoms that arise years after the injury occurs.”

Therefore, it is essential to treat every head injury on the job like a brain injury.

[Related Read: 10 Things You Should Know about a Workplace Traumatic Brain Injury]

Report Your Injury

If you think you have experienced a brain injury on the job, report this injury to your employer immediately.

In Georgia, you have 30 days to report an accident on the job. If you wait until after 30 days to report it, you may lose out on your workers’ compensation benefits.

As stated, many TBI symptoms do not reveal themselves for several weeks or months after the accident occurred. 

If you suspect you are suffering from a brain injury on the job outside of the 30-day window, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can fight for you. 

Seek Medical Attention

You should seek treat medical attention for all potential TBIs – even the mild ones – if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Problems with speech
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Blurred vision 
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Mood changes or mood swings
  • Feeling depressed or anxious
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sleeping more than usual

Again, you may not seek medical attention immediately after the bump on your head, but as soon as you notice a symptom, you need to get help.

File a Claim

You have one year from the accident date to file a claim. 

Filing your claim requires a special form to be filed with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.

Once you file the claim, the workers’ compensation insurance company will start looking into the claim to accept or deny it.

Don’t Rush a Diagnosis

It’s understandable to want answers quickly. This is a difficult situation to be in.

However, if you suffer a brain injury on the job, you want to take your time.

As mentioned, many of the symptoms associated with TBIs take time to manifest. 

If you rush your doctor to diagnose you, you risk not receiving the medical care or benefits you need.

For example, if you get a diagnosis and receive a settlement from the insurance company before all your symptoms appear, you are stuck with the initial settlement. 

You can’t get more money to cover the new expenses you have. Beware of lawyers who want to rush to settle your case too soon!

Get an Impairment Rating

Workers’ compensation covers the costs associated with medical treatment for a brain injury on the job, as well as specialized rehabilitation, and housing and vehicle modifications when required.

If you suffer a brain injury on the job, you will likely have to miss at least a few days of work – if not more. 

Unfortunately, many workers with TBIs find themselves unable to work for extended periods (some never return).

Whether you are out for a week or the entirety of your career, you are entitled to income benefits.

However, strict guidelines determine the income benefits you may receive from workers’ comp in Georgia.

According to the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation Notice of Payment or Suspension of Benefits:  

In addition to paying your medical expenses for an injury at work, the employer will pay you for part of your lost wages if you are disabled from work for more than seven (7) calendar days because of your work-related injury.

You are entitled to weekly income benefits if you are unable to work for more than 7 days. Your first check should be mailed to you within 21 days after the first day you missed work. If you miss more than 21 consecutive days, you will be paid for the first week.

TEMPORARY TOTAL 

O.C.G.A. §34-9-261: IF YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO WORK AT ALL because of your injury, your employer/insurer must pay:

  • 2/3 of your average weekly wage with a maximum of $675 per week if your date of accident was on or after July 1, 2019. A minimum of $50.00 per week, or your actual weekly wage if less than $50.00 per week.
  • If your accident occurred on or after July 1, 1992, and if your injury is not catastrophic, you are not entitled to this type of benefit for more than 400 weeks. Furthermore, your benefits may be reduced to those allowed by O.C.G.A. 34-9-262 under certain circumstances after you have been released to return to work with limitations or restrictions.

TEMPORARY PARTIAL 

O.C.G.A. §34-9-262: IF YOU MUST WORK FOR LOWER WAGES because of your injury at work, your employer/insurer will pay:

  • 2/3 of your wage loss (the difference between what you make after your injury and what you made before), with a maximum of $450 per week if your date of accident was on or after July 1, 2019 for a maximum of 350 weeks from the date of accident.

PERMANENT PARTIAL

O.C.G.A. §34-9-263: IF YOU LOST A PART OR MEMBER OF YOUR BODY or lose the use of a member (such as arm, finger, eye, etc.), you will first receive benefits described above during disability, and then upon return to work or otherwise becoming ineligible for TTD or TPD benefits, you will receive payment for permanent partial disability for a certain number of weeks, based on the percentage of your loss. Multiply the permanent partial disability (%) by the maximum number of weeks listed below to determine the number of weeks you will receive PPD benefits. For example, for a 15% permanent partial disability to an arm, multiply 15% times 225 weeks. The answer of 33.75 represents the number of weeks you will receive income benefits.

In short, lawmakers in Georgia have given each body part a value regarding the number of weeks covered for benefits. 

But, if the doctor doesn’t give you a fair impairment rating, it will affect your workers’ compensation benefits.

Moreover, you may suffer from a brain injury on the job that requires lifetime medical benefits and lifetime lost wages, which is why it is wise to hire a workers’ comp attorney to fight for you.

Understand What You’re Up Against

Workers who suffer a brain injury on the job cost insurance companies a lot of money. 

One study found, “These injuries result in sizable direct and indirect costs; recent estimates suggest that the annual cost burden of TBI in the U.S. is well over $75 billion.”

When it comes to insurance claims, NCCI found, “Brain and head injuries, such as TBIs, account for a significant portion of mega claims—17% of mega claims between $3 million and $5 million, and 30% of mega claims in excess of $10 million.”

What that means for those who have suffered a brain injury on the job is that insurance companies will look for every possible way to disprove it. 

They don’t want to pay the big bucks. 

Therefore, you will likely have to fight to get the benefits you are entitled to.

They will try to get you to speak to nurse case managers, send you to doctors that are pro-insurance companies,spy on you, and force you to go to an independent medical exam.

These are ways to “trip you up” and give them a reason to dispute and deny your injury claim.

Hire a Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Georgia

TBIs can upend your entire life. 

Don’t leave your life in the hands of those who are more interested in profit than people.

Work with an experienced workers’ comp attorney to ensure you receive the benefits you truly deserve for medical care and income loss. Call the Georgia TBI Guy.

If you’ve been injured on the job, contact us today for a free, no-strings-attached consultation.

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